I keep seeing a meme that Dec 26 is "national mom loses her mind day" float around social media. While I get the sentiment (and lost my mind the day prior-kids were fighting), it doesn't have to be this way. Mom doesn't have to clean up everything. Or, really, anything that isn't hers. What if I told you your kids are absolutely capable of cleaning up after themselves AND the animals?!
No, teaching them to clean up and do chores is NOT easy in the short term. However, long term, you will be thankful you used your energy to teach it. I absolutely have to fight my kids to clean up and do their chores sometimes. In this post, https://growingexceptional.com/stories/f/chores, I discuss some of that battle and why it's important to follow through.
Leigh and I decided when Rory was a toddler that we would enforce her being responsible for her own toys. Leigh made a common, rooky parent move when Rory was about 18 months old. He asked her if she was ready to clean up her toys. She honestly responded, "No". I giggled. Leigh tried to hand out a consequence. I reminded him he had asked her a question and she'd answered honestly. He'd not given a directive.
As parents, we try to walk the thin line between friend and parent. Kindly requesting our children's participation in house cleaning demonstrates to our kids that we are a team. However, few people like cleaning. We must use a bit more than a request when we need our adorable progeny to tackle undesired tasks, like cleaning.
"Johny, it is time to clean up now."
Firm. But kind. Yes, Johny is likely to protest and whine.
"I hear you, bud, but we need to take care of our home. Let's work together."
(As our kids have aged, we have further explained the merits of house cleaning, but most toddlers are not ready to hear about dust and germ accumulation and the health deficits they can cause.)
Johny may still protest. You remain firm. "Johny pick up that toy and put it here." Keep encouraging. You might need to physically help your little ones clean up for a time. They will protest. In the long run, I promise, teaching this skill young is crucial and will pay off big time!
If you missed the "teach them young" mantra, it isn't too late! You can recover. Ensure specific, labeled places for each item or type of toy. Create a rhythm of daily tidying so you establish a habit. Be the example and deal with your own messes. Check in often, and offer small bits of help. Give the 6-8 year the vacuum or broom to clean up their food messes. Even Kae, 4, used our small vacuum to clean her room on chore day. Create, then enforce consistently the expectation that each member of the home will contribute to cleaning it as a whole, and will be responsible for their own messes.
Mom is no longer the cleaning lady. You absolutely do not collect and throw away all the wrapping paper from Christmas. Your two-year-old can walk their cute, little behind to the trash can with that handful of paper to throw it away or recycle it. They can absolutely carry that new toy from Grandma to their rooms or the playroom. When told to clean up, and they refuse, you can take away the toys they left out. If they don't care to clean them up be responsible, they don't need them.
Yep, it's easier to do it yourself and rant on social media about how terrible the little monsters are. But you will never stop doing that if you don't take charge and change the expectations now. Your children need you to enforce this for their futures.
Book a session with me if you want more specifics on how to implement this in your specific home situation!